Photographers Rights In The UK

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Here in the UK, there’s been a recent spate of harassment and even arrests of innocent photographers by police invoking anti-terrorism laws.

So we’ve compiled an easy-to-read wallet-sized infosheet of photographer legal rights here in the UK (PDF). It’s designed by David McCandless and Joe Swainson. The information is sourced directly from the UK Metropolitan Police and distilled from other bust cards out there.

Download and print the PDF, cut it out and stick it in your wallet or purse. If you’re stopped by police for taking photos, whip out the sheet and instantly check your rights.

Of course, it’s never a good plan to antagonise the politzei. We hear they’re particularly unimpressed by having ‘infosheets’ waved in their faces. If you are stopped for suspicious photography, a good response is usually something like:

“I’m an amateur photographer taking pictures for fun. Would you like to see them officer?”

NOTE: Note Saturday 23rd Jan 2010, there’s a Mass Photo Gathering in Trafalgar Square in London 12 Noon to protest photographers rights. It’s organized by

If you can help us with photographers rights cards for other countries, such as the US, please get in touch. Thanks!

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Show Comments ( )

  • Matt

    For USA residents, you may find this helpful:

    The Photographers Rights

    One difference from the UK, however, in the US, police are NOT allowed to view your images without a court order.

  • Rik Hemsley

    Are you sure that the UK police are legally allowed to view images? Without arrest? Without first confiscating the camera?

  • Tom Godfrey

    Wonderful, a very useful document. There are a couple of typos on the suggested response to police though. I think the bit marked inside is actually the outside too.

  • Jon Huntoon

    Holy crap,

    That sucks. I didn’t know the UK was so f’d up. They can take your camera? Here in the states we have the 4th amendment, no unwarranted search and seizure, and no warranted search or seizure without probable cause.

    I have never had my camera threatened, but I have heard of it and seen some youtubes, but usually those are from private security and not the police or military. Except of course if you try to photograph Area 51, in which case you’re going to get a boot on your throat and there are signs explaining this much.

  • Dax

    “Would you like you see them officer?” I guess you mean to.
    Also, isn’t it ‘stopped & searched’ in stead of stop & searched?

    For the rest, this is a nice little reminder for photographers. In this day and age we probably need leaflets like these to inform people of all kinds of potential violations by the authorities.

  • nick

    So… where’s the infographic on how many terrorism cases involve phototerrorists? or would they be terrographers? Whatever they’re called, how many of these cases involved photography – and to what extent was the photography obvious vs. hidden camera/hidden photographer?

    And, for x sake this is in LONDON. Where your picture is taken more times per second than anywhere else that isn’t in front of a high speed (hundreds or thousands of frames-per-second ) camera.

  • Will Abson

    Great idea. However, the definition of a public place presumably does not include places like train and tube stations which are owned by Network Rail/TfL, etc. and where you are probably more likely to be stopped, than, say in Trafalgar Square. So I wonder if these guidelines would apply in the same way to British Transport Police.

  • Klaas

    It seems to me that waving infosheets in their faces is exactly what one should do. What do they think this is; the late days of the Weimar republic? Anyway, is it relevant that the European court has deemed the stop-and-search powers illegal?

  • Jeff Parks

    @Rik Hemsley: “Are you sure that the UK police are legally allowed to view images? Without arrest? Without first confiscating the camera?”

    Yes, if the search is lawful under the Terrorism Act, they can. If the images were claimed to be journalistic or legally-privileged material the police would have to consider whether they needed to obtain a court order, but there is no specific legislation requiring them to do so.

    @Will Abson: “Great idea. However, the definition of a public place presumably does not include places like train and tube stations which are owned by Network Rail/TfL, etc.”

    Public place would mean “any place to which the public or any section of the public has access as of right or by virtue of express or implied permission”

  • the_fonz

    You tell ‘em, mate. There’ s also a film out there about this subject, ‘Freedom to Film’,

  • seo firm

    I have taken a photograph of a parking place with two lorries entering.

    I have been told that the photograph cannot be used because the lorries have the companies corporate logo and livery.
    without my making any comments about this, can I send the photograph via e mail for comments/opinions etc.

    The photograph is intended to show goods vehicles entering a lorry park, any goods vehicles!


    • Andy Brice

      In the same way that a photograph of a building is not considered a derivative work. I expect a photograph of a printed logo is not considered a derivative work either. Otherwise it would be illegal to publish photographs of shops or products.

  • InfoWarrior Number6

    Well, well… a nice little business size card to show the police. You guys sound like spineless complicit jews durring nazi germany when the the Nazi’s delcared all jews must wear a yellow star of david of specific size on a armband.

    How about sticking up for your rights as free human beings? I dont care what Section 44 of the Anti-Terrorism act says. The real terrorists are in government destroying your freedoms. You see, they take your freedom away and they gain tremendous power over your daily lives.

    You guys are spineless. The cops will just billy-club you when you pull that card out of your wallet because they think you’ll have a knife or a gun or a weapon of mass destruction. How about you wimps REVOLT against your George Orwell 1984 world you live in (or Huxley’s Brave New World).

    You UK-living cowards make me physically ill. You wont even stand up for god given rights. You’re pathetic. Information is Beautiful my skinny a-s. Enjoy your tyranny, enjoy your dictatorship. Yeah, I’m angry, but question is: ARE YOU GOING TO DO SOMETHING TO REGAIN YOUR FREEDOMS AS HUMAN BEINGS?!

  • Goodwins_Law

    Well, thats torn it.!

    Goodwin’s Law is yet again proven.

  • Lynn Wedge Boots

    “I’m an amateur photographer taking pictures for fun. Would you like to see them officer?”
    Funny. You think they will buy that?

  • Big Bull

    Who cares? Show the cops your work. Just more exposure if you are an artist. What do you have to hide? If they don’t take it away, then no big deal. Too many babies in this wimpy world. TOUGHEN UP!!! It’s now a different world we live in! It’s not like they are taking your children or raping your women. It’s just a stupid picture. JEEEEEEEEEEEZZZZZZZZZZ…. Spoken by a fellow artist. Not as sensitive and don’t have a ponytail.

  • Hakukoneoptimointia

    Cameras in the mobile devices is the big change in photoshooting.

  • kil roy metters

    one of the things i love about this whole thing of photographers rights is i can be standing outside a high rise office building being harrassed by security and the whole time they are video taping me and everyone else who happens by 24/7

  • Andy Brice

    I got stopped filming MI6 for a blog entry (It’s a prime example of postmodernism in 80s & 90s government architecture).

    I showed them the video and explained what I was doing; but made it clear I was going to continue. They were perfectly polite and reasonable about it, and radioed other officers in the area to tell them I’d already been checked and wasn’t a threat.